Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America

Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America

Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America

Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America

Synopsis

No place is perfectly safe, but some places are more dangerous than others. Whether we live on a floodplain or in "Tornado Alley," near a nuclear facility or in a neighborhood poorly lit at night, we all co-exist uneasily with natural and man-made hazards. As Mark Monmonier shows in this entertaining and immensely informative book, maps can tell us a lot about where we can anticipate certain hazards, but they can also be dangerously misleading. California, for example, takes earthquakes seriously, with a comprehensive program of seismic mapping, whereas Washington has been comparatively lax about earthquakes in Puget Sound. But as the Northridge earthquake in January 1994 demonstrated all too clearly to Californians, even reliable seismic-hazard maps can deceive anyone who misinterprets "known fault-lines" as the only places vulnerable to earthquakes. Important as it is to predict and prepare for catastrophic natural hazards, more subtle and persistent phenomena such as pollution and crime also pose serious dangers that we have to cope with on a daily basis. Hazard-zone maps highlight these more insidious hazards and raise awareness about them among planners, local officials, and the public. With the help of many maps illustrating examples from all corners of the United States, Monmonier demonstrates how hazard mapping reflects not just scientific understanding of hazards but also perceptions of risk and how risk can be reduced. Whether you live on a faultline or a coastline, near a toxic waste dump or an EMF-generating power line, you ignore this book's plain-language advice on geographic hazards and how to avoid them at your own peril. "No one should buy a home, rent an apartment, or even drink the local water without having read this fascinating cartographic alert on the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives. . . . Who has not asked where it is safe to live? Cartographies of Danger provides the answer."--H. J. de Blij, NBC News "Even if you're not interested in maps, you're almost certainly interested in hazards. And this book is one of the best places I've seen to learn about them in a highly entertaining and informative fashion."--John Casti, New Scientist

Excerpt

Disasters usually surprise their victims. "Why me?" they ask. "Why now?" "Why here?" These questions often have obvious answers, at least in the sense of relative risk. For example, the campus of the university where I teach abuts a large public park--a nice place to walk, toss Frisbees, or lie in the sun. At dusk, though, Thornden Park becomes a place of danger, especially for female students walking alone. But because we warn students of the risk, tragic surprises here are rare. In large cities, some universities provide "no-go" maps showing areas best avoided at night and even during the day. Crime, of course, is but one of many hazards for which risk varies from place to place. Wouldn't it be helpful to have no-go, no-build, or no-live maps for all kinds of nasty surprises? As this books illustrates, we do--sort of--but what's available is spotty, often unreliable, and still evolving.

How hazard mapping got where it is, and how quickly, is an intriguing story that can increase our ability to view maps critically and analytically as well as introduce new readers to the geographer's perspective. As an educator and researcher specializing in map design and cartographic information, I hope to share my appreciation of maps as . . .

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